Gore Vidal was Italian. Had I known this earlier, I would have read his book, “Vidal in Venice” a lot sooner. It was given to me as an Easter gift in 1989 by a friend who knew I wanted to see Venice. The book examines Vidal’s trip to Venice, Italy searching for his roots as well as delving into the origin of the city. I went there for similar reasons, found relatives of mine, and visited with them. My relatives live in a small town near Venice called Arzignano, halfway between Venice and Verona. It seemed as though all 22,000 inhabitants in the town of Arzignano had my family’s last name: Frighetto. Hard to imagine that, isn’t it? I felt like I was on another planet.
An Appreciation of Gore Vidal
Vidal died July 31, 2012. He was 86. A few days later, Charlie Rose ran An Appreciation of Gore Vidal; interviews he had held with Vidal ranging from the young Vidal to the aging Vidal. See the video: An Appreciation of Gore Vidal. Many people are familiar with Vidal’s works of which there are many, but not many knew that he almost got married just before he joined the Army. When Rose asked why, Vidal stated simply that most thought they wouldn’t return from war. His friend, Jimmie Trimble didn’t. He didn’t go in to why the marriage never came to be. Vidal liked to portray that he was something of a womanizer and admitted to going from one conquest to the next, even though he hinted at being bi-sexual and claimed that we all are bi-sexual. I think in his younger days he fancied himself a modern day Casanova whom he included in his book along with the exciting details of Casanova’s prison escape.
The photos in “Vidal in Venice” are many and they are gorgeous. But then, it’s my belief that you can’t take a bad picture in Venice. I mean no offense to the photographer, Tore Gill. It’s interesting that Gore Vidal chose Tore Gill for his photographer if for no reason other than their similarly spelled names: Tore and Gore. I’ve looked at these photos many times; I just never read the book before now.
Vidal’s Origin of Venice
It isn’t news that the city of Venice is a city on stilts. It was put together by man built from mud and probably the worst land development project in the history of mankind. But it had something going for it. The fact that it was surrounded by water protected their watery moat from invasion. They made their fortune from the salt there. It’s ironic that my mother always tells me, “No salt!” Meaning, if you want to live a long and healthy life, don’t use salt. Growing up, there was never a salt shaker on our dinner table. With my mother’s “no salt” philosophy, we would have been thrown in the lagoon had we lived in earlier times. Today, however, her philosophy is a good one.
“Venice was once a world capital. Now it is a sort of Disneyland,” states Vidal. I wouldn’t go that far although I wasn’t crazy about seeing a McDonalds not far from the Piazza San Marco. Truly, the sight of a McDonalds there disgusted me.
Vidal wrote about several famous paintings. One, The Tempest, by Giorgione, I had written about too, while reviewing an art film. A full page photo of the painting is in Vidal’s book. He didn’t have any new or startling insights into what the painting meant.
The Turning of the Tide
In a chapter called, “The Turning of the Tide,” Vidal discussed an area of Venice where Jews were required to live called a “ghetto.” According to Vidal, the word ghetto comes from the word “gettare” or “to cast metal” because foundries once stood there. I wondered if my name was somehow connected. When I asked my relatives if our name had any translatable meaning, I was told no, but they joked that since the word “frigo” meant “refrigerator” and “etto,” added to the ending of a word, meant “little,” it could be translated to “little refrigerator.”
Vidal researched the history of this area and offered more information than I had ever been able to find out about it.
Venice, the City of Dreams
Venice was once a powerful and rich city. The Venetians who continue to live there may dream of their glorious past. Tourists come and by Vidal’s accounts, find the city to be “a waking dream.” On the inside cover of my copy of “Vidal in Venice,” my friend wrote: “Until the dream becomes reality.” My dream was realized. Vidal’s book made it even more special and I thank him for that.